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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 3, 2010
At 15, Muller knows tractors inside and out, and rides his to glory
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
KNOX Wyatt Muller can pull his own weight and then some.
Blond and slim at 15, he has an earnest look as he talks of his passion for tractors.
He bought his tractor, a 1946 Allis-Chalmers, when he was 12. He had spent that summer haying and earned the $350 to buy the tractor.
“I went to look at it with my Dad,” Wyatt recalled. “I said, ‘Dad, are you going to buy it?’ He said, ‘No, you are.’”
Why would a kid want to buy an old tractor?
“I’ve always loved tractors and seeing what they do,” said Wyatt.
He lives with his mother, Mary, a social worker at St. Luke’s Church; his father, Randy, a mechanic for the town of Guilderland; and his 11-year-old brother, Luke, on a small farm in Knox. On five acres, the family raises chickens, goats, cows, and pigs.
“My Dad has a Farmall. He put me on it when I was two-and-a-half,” said Wyatt. “He locked the steering wheel. I did circles in the field.”
He’s been hooked on tractors ever since.
One of the things tractors can do is pull heavy loads. Wyatt longed to compete in tractor pulls. Last summer, he competed at the Ag Fest in Ravena and won first place, pulling 3,500 pounds.
“I’m the youngest that ever pulled,” said Wyatt, who competed against adults. He’s looking forward to another competition in Ravena this Saturday.
During a pull, the sled hitched to the back of his tractor, which Wyatt described as “a big stone boat,” weighs 1,000 pounds. Then, an 800-pound weight is added. Whichever competitors can pull that load get to pull again, with another 800-pound slab added to the sled. Finally, only one tractor is left.
Last summer, it was Wyatt’s 28 horsepower Allis-Chalmers.
Sometimes, the front wheels of his tractor were lifted off the ground; then he had to drive with his brakes.
“You’ve got to know your tractor,” Wyatt said, explaining how he won.
He knows his Allis-Chalmers, inside and out.
This past winter, Wyatt and his father took the 64-year-old tractor apart, refurbished each piece, and put it back together. It wasn’t because the machine was broken but, rather, because they wanted to restore the Allis-Chamers to its former bright-orange glory.
“It ran great,” recalled Wyatt, adding, “A year after I got it, the magneto wore out.”
A friend of his father had given him an old Allis-Chalmers for free and he got the magneto from that.
But that first repair pales beside the complete rebuild that Randy and Wyatt Muller undertook from January to March.
“I worked with my dad,” said Wyatt. “My dad always knows everything and he teaches me everything.”
Wyatt hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps, working as a mechanic for the town of Guilderland after he graduates from high school next year. His long-range plans include buying a small farm, like his parents’, in Knox.
“I want a small farm, like ours. I’m going to stay right in Knox,” said Wyatt. “It’s quiet and nice here.”
“Unfortunately, it’s in his blood,” said his father, with a smile.
In the meantime, Wyatt enjoys the predictable noise of old machines. He works as a volunteer at the farm machinery building at the Altamont fair. “I have a few hit-and-miss engines there,” said Wyatt, excitement rising in his voice. “They’re from the early 1900s, the first engine ever.”
“Chug, chug, chug, bang,” said his father, describing the noises made by a hit-and-miss four-stroke flywheel engine as it fires and then coasts until the speed decreases and the engine needs to fire again.
Wyatt also works on restoring vintage snowmobiles and plans to race one on Oxbow Lake. He has a collection of old Ski-Doos from the 1960s, which he enjoys repairing.
He shares his enthusiasm for machines with some of his friends. Last week, five of them rode tractors to the Berne-Knox-Westerlo high school, where Wyatt is a student.
That was the idea of his friend, Eric Scanlon, a senior. Eric rode his tractor to the school prom last year.
“No one had ever done it before,” said Wyatt of the tractor ride to school. “I like to show my tractor and do stuff like that.”
He also rode his tractor in a Memorial Day parade this week. Wyatt hopes more students will ride their tractors to BKW on the last day of school this year.
“All the kids loved it,” he concluded.